Valley News Dispatch Offensive Player of the Year: Leechburg’s Tommy Burke

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Saturday, December 25, 2021 | 9:25 PM


Alle-Kiski Valley Offensive Player of the Year

Tommy Burke

QB, Senior, 5-9, 165 pounds, Leechburg

The feel-good story of the local football season was Leechburg’s football resurgence.

The Blue Devils had their first winning season since 1991, first WPIAL playoff appearance since ’88, won their first playoff game since ’78, hosted a playoff game for the first time and was the first Alle-Kiski Valley team to score 500 points in a season.

Leading the potent offense was quarterback Tommy Burke, who completed 134 passes for 2,213 yards and 18 touchdowns to become Valley News Dispatch Offensive Player of the Year. A dual threat, he carried the ball for 476 yards and six touchdowns.

He had plenty of tools to work with. Running back Braylan Lovelace collected 1,506 rushing yards, and Logan Kline caught 38 passes. Receivers Eli Rich and Tyler Foley caught 33 passes; Jayden Floyd 16 and Lovelace 12.

As the weeks have gone by, it was a great season for Burke to reflect on.

“In simple terms, I would describe the season as history-making,” Burke said. “There were so many firsts, as all the articles about Leechburg football said. This team has made history, and nobody can take it away from us.”

Burke didn’t hesitate when asked the secret to the 9-3 season.

“Our offensive line did an incredible job,” Burke said. “Throughout the entirety of the season, they experienced many injuries. Going into our first game, the majority of our line never played a down of football in their lives. They rarely missed blocks, I barely got sacked and when I did, they were there to pick me up.”

A surreal moment of the season followed the 28-7 playoff win over California as players lingered on the field and fans stayed in the stands to soak it all in.

“The feeling the team and I felt after the victory was a feeling no words can describe,” Burke said. “I have been playing football for 13 years, and I have never felt the way I felt that night. Then seeing all the fans staying and cheering for us even after the clock hit zeroes, it was heartwarming. Our saying this year was TDTM, which stood for ‘Their Dream Through Me.’ ”

A wide receiver last season with Dylan Cook at quarterback, Burke learned coach Randy Walters’ offense from a different perspective.

“Coach’s offense was no doubt very complex and precise,” the 5-foot-9, 165-pound senior said. “Everyone had to do their job, or as we would say, their ‘one-eleventh.’ But he made it easy, drawing up plays on a white board, walking us through and sometimes even jump in and demonstrate. He told me not to force throws and take what the defense gave me.”

What’s next for Burke?

“Right now, I am in the process of trying to be admitted into the Naval Academy. A few weeks ago, I had my interview with Congressman Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.). Now, I’m waiting in hopes of receiving a nomination. If I am lucky enough and offered admission into the Naval Academy, then I hope to play football.”

If Burke doesn’t end up in Annapolis, he’s looking at Saint Vincent, Waynesburg and Bethany. He’d like to take pre-med/biology.

“I knew that I wanted to go into the medical field when my sister had open-heart surgery when she was only two weeks old,” he said. “Ever since then, I made a promise to myself to become a doctor so I can help other kids and people like her.”

It’s easy to imagine someday seeing on a doorway: “Thomas Burke III, M.D.”

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